L.L. asks from Roseville, CA on January 09, 2007
Dating - Roseville, CA
I have been dating this amazing man for eight months now. In the last month we have gradually introduced him to my five year old daughter. They hit it off better then I ever could have hoped for but that is leading to issues I was unprepared for. He lives over an hour away but he comes up for the weekends and spends time with both of us now, usually staying over Saturday nights. But we were sitting together the other night with her between us and my daugher made a comment about us being the perfect little family; mom, baby, and daddy. We told her he wasn't her father and that she only has one dad and she responded with "I wish you were my daddy." I wanted to cry. I had no idea how to handle this. I expected to deal with it eventually but not this soon. I had talked to her prior to her meeting him and told her that he was my friend and when they meet he asked her if he could be her friend too. But now she is really pushing that she wants him to be a part of our family. He and I both want that too, but not yet. We are trying to take things slow and don't want to rush into anything, mainly for my daughters sake. We were supposed to go away for the weekend next weekend the three of us but I am not sure that is a good idea anymore. I don't know if we should back off and have him spend less time around her or what to do.
To give you some background I have been divorced for two years now and my daughter rarely gets to see her father. He has visitation but he never excircises it. He will only watch her when I call and beg him to, which is only when she is out of school. She went through a phase right after school started where she missed him all the time and was repeatedly crying to see him. Even when she called him crying he blew her off. I dated one other person since the divorce but it was a friend my daughter had known since birth so she really didn't think anything about him coming over all the time. I love my boyfriend and we have talked about the future which is why we made the decision to introduce him to my daughter. But I am worried that she is getting too attached to him too quickly. I really need some advice.
1 mom found this helpful
C.S. answers from Corvallis on January 09, 2007
Hello there L.,
I can understand her creating such a tight bond with the man that you are dating. Especially since she doesn't see her father very often. She has a need that he seems to be filling for the moment. We had similar things happen when my step daughter was younger and my husband and I were still dating. I mean, her mother was always very involved with her, but we were hesitant at first to nurture her bond with me.
All I can say is, go with your gutt. If you feel like things are moving too quickly, then maybe add some distance between them and see how things go. If you feel like this is alright, then let it be. Just be sure to put her best interest first. That's all you can do. You can never tell how children will react to different things. All you can do is try to keep her best interest first in your heart.
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L.B. answers from Anchorage on January 09, 2007
Hi L.,if you two are planning to one day marry don't you think it would be good for you daughter to have that relationship now ?I think by you canceling the getaway that to me is setting your daughter the fare of losing what she see's as a father figure right now.if your boyfriend does not mind if she calls him dad whats the concern? the two of you should still keep letting her know that she has another dad as well. so when she gets older she will start to understand the concept.but I personaly would not be cancelling events that if you were to marry soon affect this child.I would be worried that if you started taking his time away from her that she is going to grow up with the fare that if she loves a man that he is going to leave her every time. thats just my oppion but if you are really concern maybe you can contact a counselor. meet with one that deals with children in this type of situation good luck with your family.
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K.O. answers from Portland on January 09, 2007
This is such a touchy subject. I can only give my opinion from my own experiences and I hope you can just take the good from it.
I think that if he is going to be a friend, that you need to not have him over to the house overnight...even if it is on the couch. I think that your relationship needs to be separate from your daughters until you have actually made the decision for him to be a permanent part of both of your lives.
It is so unfair for a child to 'need' so desperately a father and for him to not be there. I know how that goes. By you putting a man figure in that position in your daughter's life, she is going to cling to it immediately. She desires it so badly. You need to protect her from any possible hurt. If you do not know where your relationship with this guy will go, you should not have him be in a relationship with your daughter just yet.
So, when you go out on dates and away for the weekend and such...make sure that you meet him after settling your child in with your babysitter or whatever. Just tell your daughter you are going out with friends.
I don't know how involved he is with your daughter, but you will only be hurting her more if he ends up not being a permanent part of your life.
Good luck! Just remember to protect your daughter at all costs until you are totally ready for a permanent family committment.
1 mom found this helpful
R.L. answers from San Luis Obispo on January 10, 2007
It's perfectly normal that she feels that way and says those kinds of things considering the circumstances with her father. Kids are full of love and want to freely give and receive... they also especially at that age (as you know) speak their feelings and minds freely (which is a good sign that your allowing her to express herself, which is important). Have you talked to your boyfriend about whats going on with her father? Explain to him that it's normal for her to express her feelings given her age... hopefully if he is the great guy you describe him to be he will understand. Be honest with her... tell her that you understand that she misses her daddy and wants another one (acknowledging her feelings is so important) and telling her that you guys are just friends right now and that your checking him out to see if he's a good husband and daddy would be good too... after all it's the truth. Don't cancel your trip... if you two are both on the same page and want to possibly get married in the future, spending time with your daughter is important... you just both should consider her age and feelings and understand when she says those kinds of things, it's nothing to feel uncomfortable about... she likes him! Great for all of you! He should be flattered and you should be glad she likes him!
M.H. answers from Seattle on January 11, 2007
I agree with your decision to introduce him slowly to your daughter...that was a very smart idea! I remember when my parents got divorced...I was devistated when my dad introduced me to a woman who suddenly moved into our house!
But now that your daughter HAS met him and DOES get along with him...what is having you move slow? You mentioned you wanted to move slow mainly for your daughter's sake...but she seems all good with the idea. Are you scared he'll leave? I think that once you are ready, you should pursue the next step...but only if you're ready - and not for your daughter's sake. It seems she's fine with the way things are heading :) Good luck!
E.R. answers from Medford on January 09, 2007
I THINK IT IS WONDERFUL THAT YOUR DAUGHTER FEELS THE WAY SHE DOES. IT MAKES HER FEEL GOOD AND LOVED (OR LIKED A LOT) AND THAT IS SOOOOO NICE BECAUSE OF THE WAY HER BIOLOGICAL FATHER TREATS HER. YOU ARE PROBABLY MORE CONCERNED THAT IF YOU TWO BREAK UP SHE WILL BE HEART BROKEN AS WELL??
M.W. answers from Los Angeles on January 10, 2007
I know people don't want to hear this, but I believe that when you have children, and you are divorced or split up, dating or marriage is out of the question until they are grown. Children should not have to deal with the drama of dating relationships and be at risk for getting hurt with people coming in and out of their lives. It did much damage to me having both of my parents bringing people they were dating around. I have a very strained relationship with my parents now because of it. I really believe I would have grown up feeling much more happy and secure if my parents would have waited til I was on my own before they started looking for somebody. Your daughter may be happy now having this guy around, but what happens in a few years when she starts to understand that this man is not her father and she starts to challenge that. Or what if her father decides to be a part of her life in the future and she resents the other man for trying to take that place. She may even blame you for him leaving her if you take him out her life. And if you have children with this man she will be hurt that they have their true father around and she never did. You are risking building much anger and resentment in your daughter by introducing her to other men. She may not grow up angry or hurt, but is it worth it? I'm sorry if this offends you, but I have been in your daughters shoes and I believe you are better off making her the focus and waiting til she is grown to start dating. It will give your little one a better chance of growing up happy and secure and to have a better relationship with you.
M.P. answers from Portland on January 09, 2007
L., This sort of thing has happened with my daughter and grandaughter who is now 6. My daugter has been dating the same man for about 3 years. Their relationship has gone slowly and it was several months before he stayed overnight. From the beginning Destini has told her daughter that he is a friend and even tho they have discussed marriage they have not included her in the idea that that is a possibility because at this point it is only a possibility. When Monet makes statements or asks questions, my daughter answers keeping in mind Monet's age and ability to understand. And she tells her it's OK to wish for something but that doesn't make it so.
Monet, sometimes cries because she doesn't have a daddy that she can see. (Her brother's father has him overnight 2 nights a week but only includes Monet in a small way. At the time of the divorce he insisted, even to Monet, that he was no longer her daddy.) When she cries I hold her and am sympathetic, acknowledging her feelings and allowing her to express them. After awhile I introduce a diversion such as putting in a movie or picking up a book or toy and Monet is OK. Sometimes we talk about her Daddy. The focus is on her, her feelings, who her Daddy is, and the fact that he lives far away. I never say anything negative about her daddy. I try to be neutral. I acknowledge how she feels but never suggest how her father might feel except that he loves her. I think that he does. I think he doesn't know how to show his love but I don't say that at this age.
These feelings are painful for all of us but I think it's important to acknowledge them when they come up and to allow them to be expressed. I also think it's important to emphasize that you and your boyfriend are friends. And since your daughter's father is sometimes around to talk about how he is her father. Say that it would be great if you had a new family but we're not that family now. Not even suggest that as a possibility until you know for sure that it is. It's important to clarify the facts some of the time but it's helpful if the focus is on how we're feeling and what do we do with those feelings. For example: sometimes we cry, sometimes we distract ourselves but we always admit, perhaps only to ourselves, how we feel and what we'd like but can't have right now.
My granddaughter wants to have a family like "everyone else." Reality is that a large number of kids do not have that family. As a single parent, I adopted my daughter when she was 6 and so I emphasized the different kinds of families with her and she and I have continued that emphasis with my granddaugter. I think that helps.
Both my daughter and I have been concerned about the effect on Monet of her boyfriend sleeping in the same bed. I've been concerned that she will think it's OK to sleep with anyone that she's dating. Over time we have become more comfortable with the idea that we'll have to deal with that issue when Monet brings it up. In my day, one did not sleep with someone without being married but once I decided to sleep with a man before I married him I realized that doing so without marriage is more of the norm now. Monet will be faced with that complicated issue from different directions. I will give her information based on her age and what she's able to understand. At 6, where one sleeps and it's implication is of no importance to her.
As to becoming too attached too quickly you cannot prevent that once he's in your lives. It is good that you've waited to introduce him to her. You can perhaps moderate her attachment by reminding her that he is not her daddy from time to time and to not let her call him daddy. Be casual. Emphasize friendship and what that involves. Talk about friends in contexts other than hers and your relationship with him.
She will become too attached because she misses having a daddy and because she's young and doesn't understand all the implications of attachment. She can't protect herself. You can't prevent the pain that she'll feel if your boyfriend leaves your lives. You can try to make the possibility of pain be less by being open to discussing realities and feelings.
Recently I've been trying to think of ways to get more loving relationships into my granddaughter's life so that she isn't as focused on what she doesn't have. I'm wanting broaden her awareness of different kinds of love and giving her opportunities to feel more love. She's going to stay overnight with one of my married cousins from time to time. I've asked my daugter's father to take her on outings but he's chosen not to do that. My grandson's grandparents are going to have her visit without her brother from time to time.
Here is another approach. My boyfriend at the time I adopted Destini became her pops. He called her his kid. We didn't stay together but he is still her dad and she is his kid in many ways. This was easy because my daughter does not know her birth father and I didn't date after breaking up with her father substitue and we were able to eventually build a friendship.
Perhaps you could give your boyfriend a sort of name like pops and she could be his favorite kid, still acknowleding that she has a birth father. Perhaps she could call him a special name that's not even related to being a father. They are developing a special relationship and perhaps she's wanting a way to verbally acknowledge that.
I hope that this helps. M.
Later. I've just read the new responses and I agree that if you're as certain as you can reasonably be that you're going to marry that it is OK for her to call him daddy. You do have to trust your gut feeling about that.
She would then have 2 daddies. The way that I handled having 2 of someone in the relationship is to have Daddy (his name) and Daddy (his name). Usually the only time we use the first name is when there is the possibility of confusion over who we're talking about.
And I definately agree that you cannot go back and start over by cancelling your trip or reducing time together with your daughter once she has come to expect that. It's important to protect her from as much loss as possible as well as to help her deal with loss when it happens.
And I would add that if you're uncomfortable with your daughter's response or you feel especially anxious about how to handle this, that professional counseling, even just a session or two, would be helpful.